TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2022
So too with our upper-end press corps: BREAKING!
In certain highly specific circumstances, members of our upper-end "press corps" are willing to refer to "mental illness."
We know this because of the latest "Conversation" between Gail and Bret (Collins and Stephens) in the New York Times.
The Times publishes their joke-riddled colloquies on a weekly basis. In this morning's print editions, this exchange occurs:
Bret (6/14/22): Another question for you, Gail. We were talking a few weeks ago about the advisability of allowing protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices. Now there’s been a deadly serious attempt against Justice Kavanaugh. Does this change your thinking on the subject?
Gail: Well, the upshot of the story is that you’ve got a mentally ill man who flies from California intending to kill Kavanaugh, then sees the security detail near his home and instantly confesses his intention by phone.
This sort of thing absolutely has to be taken very, very, very seriously...
Just last week, a 26-year-old man did indeed fly from California to D.C. intending to kill Justice Kavanaugh.
After flying to one of the area's airports, he took a taxicab to Kavanaugh's home! When he saw a security detail was present, he did confess his intention by phone, then submitted himself to arrest.
Right there in today's New York Times, Collins, who isn't a medical specialist, calls this man "mentally ill." We aren't saying she's wrong in that assessment. Instead, we're calling attention to the fact that she actually said what she said.
Collins' statement illustrates a certain significant fact. In certain circumstances, members of our upper-end press corps are prepared to assert that some such condition as "mental illness" exists in our actual world.
We note this fact because people like Collins refuse to apply this understanding in other high-profile circumstances. This brings us back to what William Barr has said about Donald J. Trump.
Yesterday morning, the world in sin and error pining saw what Citizen Barr had said as part of a sworn deposition.
Barr was describing a meeting with Trump on December 14, 2020. Once again, here's what he said:
BARR: When I walked in, sat down, he went off on a monologue saying that there was now definitive evidence involving fraud through the Dominion [voting] machines, and a report had been prepared by a very reputable cybersecurity firm which he identified as Allied Security Operations Group.
And he held up the report, and he asked that a copy of it be made for me, and while a copy was being made, he said, "This is absolute proof that Dominion machines were rigged. This report means that I am going to have a second term."
And then he gave me a copy of the report, and as he talked more and more about it, I sat there flipping through the report and looking through it. And to be frank, it looked very amateurish to me.
It didn't have the credentials of the people involved but I didn't see any real qualifications, and the statements made were very conclusory, like "These machines were designed to engage in fraud," or something to that effect. But I didn't see any supporting information for it.
And I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, "Boy, if he believes this stuff, he has lost contact with—he's become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff."
According to Barr, he had the following thought as Trump staged his latest monologue. He wondered if the commander in chief had "lost contact with / become detached from reality."
We have no way of knowing if Barr really had some such thought. But it's almost like the attorney general was wondering if the commander in chief was delusional in some clinical sense—was some version of "mentally ill."
This very morning, on Morning Joe, Claire McCaskill flatly rejected that notion. She correctly noted that Barr only said that Trump was delusional if he really believes this stuff—and she said she doesn't believe that Trump ever really did.
McCaskill said she doesn't believe that Trump really believed all that crap. She might be totally right about that, or she could always be wrong.
McCaskill, of course, has no ultimate way of knowing what Trump believed. She isn't a medical specialist either. Neither of course is Barr.
That said, we can be sure of one thing. People like McCaskill, Collins and Stephens will not refer to Donald J. Trump as being "mentally ill." Indeed, they won't even discuss the possibility that Trump is (severely) mentally ill in some particular way.
Also, they won't interview (carefully selected) medical specialists about this sensitive topic. They won't engage such people in conversation about this possibility, which seems to be blatantly obvious.
Ever since the aftermath of the 1964 election, a certain dogma has prevailed within our upper-end press corps. Our journalists will not apply psychiatric assessments in discussing political figures. They'll do so in cases involving the average shlub, but not with a person like Trump.
This stance has been adopted in deference to the so-called "Goldwater rule." It explains why Collins will state the apparently obvious about one person, but not about another.
During his presidency, was Donald J. Trump "delusional" in some clinical sense? He's had us wondering about that for a fairly long time, but we aren't medical specialists either—and the realm of mental health and mental illness is conceptually complex.
It isn't easy for laypersons to talk about mental health and mental disorder. That said, it seems fairly obvious that our failing society is increasingly in the hands of people with such disabilities—and it isn't just the occasional guy who flies in from the coast.
In the next few days, we're going to look at mental disorder and its discontents. We'll focus on the complexity of the topic—and on the ways our mainstream press corps avoids this basic part of 20th century medical science.
Is Donald J. Trump "detached from reality" in some clinical sense? Is it possible that he really believed the lunatic claims he was hearing from his posse of preferred advisers—from apparent crackpots like Giuliani, Powell and Flynn?
We're not sure how to answer that question, but the denizens of our upper-end press corps have sworn an oath to avoid any such discussion. In that sense, our journalists have been detached from a basic part of reality for a great many years.
Tomorrow: The nature of "mental disorder"